NFL 2024 Season - Off
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NFL STRATEGIES

Camp Opens
by Dennis Ranahan

This month, all 32 National Football League teams will congregate at their summer training camps. The decisions on personnel and game plans will go a long way in determining who will continue to vie for a Super Bowl Championship and which teams will be home for the off-season before the playoffs begin.

But, personnel decisions and game plans are not the only thing that will guide one team to the top of the heap. Where they are coming from and how they arrived at the 2024 season will also play a major role in which teams advance to the playoffs.

A team that had a breakout season last year after years of disappointing campaigns is ripe for a let down.

Why?

Because every team is guided by a principle of expectations versus actual talent. A team that overachieved the prior year can have that scale totally out of whack, expecting better results than their history and tradition warrant. Take the Houston Texans for instance, we’ve got a debate in the Qoxhi offices on how they will fare this season after rising from a last place finish in 2022 to the playoffs and a postseason victory last year.

Paul Ranahan, my brother’s son who has worked with me since he was in grade school and graduated college from the University of California at Berkeley 30 years ago, has charts that spot teams on the rise. He doesn’t see an interruption in the Texans ascent with C.J. Stroud coming back for his second professional campaign and head coach DeMeco Ryans entering his second season at the helm.

I see expectations in Houston so far above their actual talent and winning history that I expect they will not be among the teams in search of a Super Bowl LIX title when the postseason starts next January.

The Kansas City Chiefs have advanced to four Super Bowls over the past five seasons and won three of them. In no small part their success is triggered by future Hall of Fame member Patrick Mahomes. They are currently listed as the favorite to win it again this year, but I have other teams on the radar that by my charts offer better opportunities for success based both on talent and motivation.

The San Francisco 49ers were close to ending the Chiefs reign as a Super Bowl Champion last year, but their overtime loss last February was their third straight Super Bowl loss after winning their first five trips to the title game. The 49ers haven’t won a Super Bowl since Steve Young got the “monkey off his back” to complete the 1994 season.

The Baltimore Ravens may have been the best regular season team last year, but came up short against the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game. The Buffalo Bills have been knocking on the door in recent years, but like the Ravens, the Chiefs have stepped in front of them in the playoffs.

Those are the obvious picks, teams expected to do well this year on the heels of doing well in recent years.

But, who is this year’s Texans?

Who is not on the radar of most pundits but will emerge with a strong playoff run, perhaps even a Super Bowl title as surprising as the one captured by the New England Patriots in the 2001 season?

Training camp and the preseason games will help illuminate a dark horse winner, and from where I sit, that’s why they go to camp.